Reopening international borders without quarantine: Contact tracing integrated policy against covid-19

Zidong Yu, Xiaolin Zhu, Xintao Liu, Tao Wei, Hsiang Yu Yuan, Yang Xu, Rui Zhu, Huan He, Hui Wang, Man Sing Wong, Peng Jia, Song Guo, Wenzhong Shi, Wu Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


With the COVID-19 vaccination widely implemented in most countries, propelled by the need to revive the tourism economy, there is a growing prospect for relieving the social distancing regulation and reopening borders in tourism-oriented countries and regions. This need incentivizes stakeholders to develop border control strategies that fully evaluate health risks if mandatory quaran-tines are lifted. In this study, we have employed a computational approach to investigate the contact tracing integrated policy in different border-reopening scenarios in Hong Kong, China. Explicitly, by reconstructing the COVID-19 transmission from historical data, specific scenarios with joint effects of digital contact tracing and other concurrent measures (i.e., controlling arrival population and community nonpharmacological interventions) are applied to forecast the future development of the pandemic. Built on a modified SEIR epidemic model with a 30% vaccination coverage, the results suggest that scenarios with digital contact tracing and quick isolation intervention can reduce the infectious population by 92.11% compared to those without contact tracing. By further restricting the inbound population with a 10,000 daily quota and applying moderate-to-strong community nonpharmacological interventions (NPIs), the average daily confirmed cases in the forecast period of 60 days can be well controlled at around 9 per day (95% CI: 7–12). Two main policy recommendations are drawn from the study. First, digital contact tracing would be an effective countermeasure for reducing local virus spread, especially when it is applied along with a moderate level of vaccination coverage. Second, implementing a daily quota on inbound travelers and restrictive community NPIs would further keep the local infection under control. This study offers scientific evidence and prospective guidance for developing and instituting plans to lift mandatory border control policies in preparing for the global economic recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7494
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021


  • Border reopening
  • COVID-19
  • Digital contact tracing
  • International travel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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